Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio - Additional Resources

Chapter 15: Fluent Balancing

Workflow Demonstration Video

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Audio Files

(To download all WAV examples at once: 3MB ZIP)

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  • Internal Rebalancing Of Mixed Stereo Files: One of the most difficult balancing tasks is trying to adjust the levels of different instruments within a mixed stereo file, a situation most commonly encountered when you’re mixing music built around samples from other records. Here’s an example of this kind of processing in practice, the aim being to increase the vocal level as much as possible relative to the other instruments in this mixed stereo sample ( Ex15.01: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). Chopping out an earlier isolated example of the song’s triggered kick-drum and phase-cancelling it with that in the sample helps reduce the kick’s level ( Ex15.02: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ) and high-pass filtering removes a lot of other unwanted low-end below the vocal register ( Ex15.03: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). Some precise fader automation ducks the snare hits to an extent ( Ex15.04: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ) and some more targeted ducking of the stereo Sides component takes that a little further ( Ex15.05: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). Some fast high-frequency limiting dulls both the hi-hat and the snare ( Ex15.06: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ), while a couple of automated low mid-range notch EQ bands further target the body of the snare sound ( Ex15.07: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). The main remaining balance problem now stems from the rhythm guitar, and that’s tackled using a set of five level-automated comb-filters (with root frequencies at 262Hz, 292Hz, 331Hz, 352Hz, and 441Hz) to individually target each of the part’s main pitched notes ( Ex15.08: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). Now, compare this result with the original untreated sample ( Ex15.01: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ) – the processing has made a big alteration in the balance, although not without some trade-offs for the vocal tone itself.
  • Experimenter’s Bias & ABX Testing: You can find a full explanation of ABX testing, as well as links to some ABX testing utilities, at the PC ABX website. For a long time I’ve used KikeG’s freeware WinABXWindows logo software, but more recently have discovered Lacinato’s cross-platform freeware ABX/ShootouterMac logoWindows logo. For a freeware plug-in alternative, try HOFA’s 4U+ BlindTestMac logoWindows logo.
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